A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday, by Tim Roxborogh.
To this day I still don't know what it is. A little marble thingee with holes and a square centrepiece that slides in and out of a brittle, oval frame. There are averagely carved elephants on the sides and it might be for holding incense sticks, but I really don't know.
All I know is that I haven't been able to give it away and I never wanted to buy it in the first place.
Kovalam Beach, southern India, 2014, and I thought I'd recover from climbing to the top of a lighthouse by lying in the sand, the waves of the Arabian Sea on one side, palm trees on the other. It wasn't long before someone approached me trying to sell drinks and snacks. After politely refusing about 17 times, they quickly — 10 minutes later — moved on.
Not so for an older chap with his box of marble trinkets. Probably twice my age and half my weight, I just couldn't be rude to someone whose daily existence seemed so precarious. Sitting himself next to my sun lounger, he began a slow and quietly devastating campaign that combined almost boyhood pride at his craftwork with more adult heartstring pulling.
As in, "Yesterday I didn't sell anything and my family rely on me. Please, I give you a good discount." You feel the epitome of laziness and wealth disparity as you — a foreigner — lie in the sun to pass the time while a desperate local pleads with you.
I kept smiling and saying no, and still he continued. He'd single out another marble thingee that I didn't understand the point of and show me all its sliding bits and pieces.
"Very nice, but no thank you," I'd repeat, but then he'd revert back to how few tourists he'd seen lately and what an amazing discount awaited me. I'm not so naive to think this couldn't be the work of a shifty salesman preying on the conscience of liberal Westerners, but sometimes you go with your gut. He looked broken.
Offering him a few dollars but respectfully declining any of his marble thingees, his eyes flashed an expression like a TV talent show contestant who'd just been told he couldn't actually sing. Realising I'd offended him, I randomly chose a thingee, told him how beautiful it was and gave him a few dollars more.
At which point he picked himself up and said goodbye. At no point did I think, "that's going straight to the poolroom!", but as I write I feel a tinge of guilt that the marble thingee isn't on display in the man cave next to the panda ball. It should be.
Emergency Undies, Socks & Toothbrush
Being at a checkout to buy undies, socks and a toothbrush is always a giveaway. I'm up to four separate occasions where my luggage and I haven't managed to make it to the same destination together. Every time I rue not packing clean undergarments in my hand luggage.
The last time my bag deserted me was a couple of years ago after a jaunt from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland via Sydney. Evidently my clothes and souvenirs felt like an Aussie detour and it was a full five days before I got a phone call saying the pack had arrived in Auckland.
The good news is the necessity for emergency dashes for the undies-socks-toothbrush trio is dropping and dropping dramatically. Because of the greater accuracy of self-service kiosks, there's been a 50 per cent decline in the amount of lost luggage on international flights over the past decade. And this despite a near 200 per cent increase in the numbers of people travelling*.
The only downside will be for people who wouldn't ever buy new undies if not for their luggage going missing from time to time. So, six in one...
* According to the SITA Baggage Report 2016.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul on Coast and writes the RoxboroghReport.com